Kaye LaFond

Science and Conservation Reporter

Kaye is shared between Michigan Radio and Interlochen Public Radio.  A graduate of Michigan Tech's environmental engineering program, she covers science, the environment, northern Michigan and stories that involve crunching a lot of numbers.

She lives in Bellaire with her three cats. She enjoys anything outdoors but is partial to swimming in the Great Lakes.

Support for conservation journalism at Interlochen Public Radio comes from The Brookby Foundation. 

Algae grows on submerged pipelines on a lake bottom.
University of Michigan

Indigenous governments and activists in the Great Lakes have been leaders in the movement to shut down the twin oil pipelines that run under the Mackinac Straits.

Now, one of the most visible people in that movement has left his tribal government job and set up his own consulting firm. One of his clients? The pipelines’ owner, Enbridge Energy.

This sudden change has upset indigenous communities in the region, and some worry it’s a “divide-and-conquer” tactic.

A flooded beach near Lake Michigan.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

The last major outbreak of avian botulism on Lake Michigan was in 2016, when hundreds of dead birds washed up on shore. The bacterial disease has affected waterfowl like loons and mergansers in the Great Lakes for decades, but high water levels on the lakes are good news for the birds for now.

A recent study, that no Michigander needed, confirmed that we have the worst roads in the country.

But, all roads in our pothole-plagued state are not created equal.

A man with a long dark ponytail stands in a river holding a 3-pronged spear.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

For April in the western Upper Peninsula, it’s a pretty warm day. The Little Carp River, surging with snowmelt, winds through a forest of hemlock trees.

Robert Rajacic is scrambling up and down riverbanks, expertly carrying a spear in his right hand. He’s hoping to use it on some rainbow trout.

USGS

Every few years the U.S. Geological Survey and its partners release an updated version of what is known as the “National Land Cover Database.”

A river flows through a wooded landscape. The banks are lined with hemlock trees and half-melted piles of snow.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency is currently seeking public comment on an application for the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) to set their own water quality standards. The KBIC is based out of L'Anse Township in the Upper Peninsula.

Stephanie Cree, water resources specialist for the tribe, says they would be the first one in Michigan to have that authority.

“It's gonna allow us to set our own water quality standards for the waters here on the reservation, where right now we follow the standards of state and federal guidelines," she says.

State officials are warning Michiganders to completely avoid touching PFAS foam. Previously, they emphasized not ingesting it.

PFAS (poly and perfluoroalkyl substances) are a class of chemicals used in firefighting foam, water-proofing substances, and more. The chemicals have been found in 119 municipal water systems.

Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

A controversial plan for a wind farm in the Upper Peninsula has been cancelled. Renewable Energy Systems was behind the project which aimed to put 49 wind turbines across 28,000 acres in L’Anse Township.

In a statement, RES said the project was no longer financially or logistically viable.

Kaye LaFond

Over four million people crossed the Straits of Mackinac last year. But they are also one of the busiest migration spots for raptors, or birds of prey, in the United States.

Two men in conservation officer uniforms smile and eat pancakes in a steamy barn
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

Maple sugaring season is just wrapping up in northern Michigan. This delicious tradition of boiling maple sap to make syrup is practiced in the state on many scales.

But Indigenous communities in the area were tapping trees long before settlers arrived.

This year, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians is reviving sugaring knowledge for their citizens.

From the top of a mountain, a snowy landscape with trees reveals a view of Lake Superior in the distance.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

Most wind energy projects in Michigan are on farmland in the southern part of the state. They are often controversial even there, but one company wants to put a wind farm in an Upper Peninsula forest. Many community members don’t feel that’s the right place either.

Bacterial canker is a devastating tree disease that affects sweet cherry orchards around the country. There is currently no good way to treat it, but some Michigan scientists are trying to harness bacteria-killing viruses to control it.

The smooth, rosy trunk of a cherry tree is marked with big, oozing dead areas, called cankers.
George Sundin / Michigan State University

Bacterial canker is a devastating tree disease that affects sweet cherry orchards around the country. There is currently no good way to treat it, but some Michigan scientists are trying to harness bacteria-killing viruses to control it.

A computer that says "Foxconn"
Christopher Bulle/FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Michigan-based water law non-profit “For Love of Water,” or "FLOW," filed an amicus brief this week in support of a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

A man in coveralls bends over a hole in ice and pulls out a net.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio


A decline in lake whitefish is pushing some tribal commercial fishermen out of Lakes Michigan and Huron. They’re spending more time in Lake Superior, the only place they say they can still make a living. This has fishermen and scientists worried about whether whitefish populations there can withstand the extra pressure.

A decline in lake whitefish is pushing some tribal commercial fishermen out of Lakes Michigan and Huron. They’re spending more time in Lake Superior, the only place they say they can still make a living. This has fishermen and scientists worried about whether whitefish populations there can withstand the extra pressure.

A map showing PFAS sites in Michigan
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

Updated, February 25, 2019

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has released results of a 2018 state-wide sampling of public, school and tribal water supplies for per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

Three people stand outside in the snow, smiling.
Cody Bigjohn Jr.

Indigenous water walkers will travel from Mackinaw City to Lansing to call for a shutdown of Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipelines.

Sarah Jo Shomin, Nancy Gallardo, and Cody Bigjohn Jr. plan to walk 311 miles over the next 17 days.

They're calling the journey "N'biish Nibimosaadaanaa", which is Anishinaabemowin for "We Walk for Water."

They say they plan to stay in prayer the entire time.

Shomin is the leader of the walk. She wants to send a specific message to state politicians.

A new report says the State of Michigan did not thoroughly review Enbridge’s ability to cover costs in the case of a spill from its twin Line 5 oil pipelines before it signed an agreement with the company. The pipelines run underneath the Straits of Mackinac.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration has given western Upper Peninsula counties a grant to rebuild flood-damaged roads.

A sign that says "Honor the Treaties" hangs between two trees against a snowy landscape.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

 

On a chilly day in early January, the ground at Camp Anishinaabek is covered in a foot of snow, extra crusty from thawing and re-freezing. The outdoor firepit where campers gather in warmer weather is deserted, and instead, they've congregated in a dark, slightly smoky tent.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Largemouth bass virus has been found in two more northern Michigan lakes. Samples from Beaver Lake in Alpena County and Avalon Lake in Montmorency County have tested positive. This follows a recent discovery of the disease in Cedar Lake in Iosco County. Both Beaver Lake and Cedar Lake have now seen fish kills related to LMBV.

Record rainfall devastated large parts of Houghton County earlier this month. Flash flooding killed a 12-year-old boy when the basement of his house collapsed. It damaged hundreds of homes and caused at least $100 million in damage to infrastructure.

 


At more than 1,600 sites across the state of Michigan, you can’t drink the groundwater. Well, you could, but it wouldn’t be safe or legal.

Last month, the state of Michigan declared Flint’s drinking water quality "restored." To get to this point, it’s taken, among other things, more than 30,000 water tests.

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